Editorial: The Capital Initiative, 2020
A Look Ahead.
It will be the biggest vote in Laurens County’s history. No, not President Trump’s landslide re-election. We are speaking of The Capital Initiative.
The 1-Cent Sales Tax Vote on Nov. 3 will be a major issue for Laurens County. Likely, Clinton will seek funds for a Library, possibly for a Police Station and a Fire Station on the same footprint of what used to be City Hall and the Public Safety Complex (and torn-down former library).
If the vote passes, and money becomes available, and things start to get built for all the right reasons, the People of Laurens County can have faith once again that their government works.
Laurens County desperately needs something to go right. It has an emergency services building not yet ready for full operations in the northern area. It got the building through a State Appropriation -- The State newspaper just wrapped up an investigation of how lawmakers can earmark special projects - going around the budgeting process - and it sounds a lot like how Mike Pitts was able to get $900,000 for an emergency response building for Northern Laurens County, near the front gate of ZF Transmissions. Nothing wrong with that - it’s local lawmakers “bringing home the bacon”. Now, Laurens County has to decide how much more local, tax dollars to spend on it. That’s yours and my tax dollars, remember. It could be a question on the Nov. 3 ballot, or it might be a county capital project in the General Fund budget - we’ll see.
Meanwhile, The Commission that is developing the The Capital Initiative ballot question needs to increase its transparency by announcing its meetings in advance.
The commission’s first meeting was Dec. 18, 2019, at the Chamber of Commerce - we’re not sure when the first meeting will be in 2020. Making its minutes available to the news media is another positive step for The Capital Initiative Sales-Tax Commission.
It is very early to speculate, but what happens if Clinton is not approved for a project? Of course, we would take a hard look at endorsing the ballot question and urging Clintonians to vote in favor. We generally believe those issues are better left to individuals - we will not in this column endorse a candidate for President of the United States. That’s YOUR decision to make - our pages can provide guidance.
So, if the Clinton new library is a Capital Initiative project - the City of Clinton has a drawing and firm cost-estimates, that’s what the commission wants to see, we have been told - we would tend toward endorsing approval of the referendum. It would mean that for some items (prepared food, especially), people in Clinton would pay 10-cents on the dollar in sales tax. For a poor community, that’s a big tax. If the Clinton new police station and fire station is a Capital Initiative project - plans are in the works - that would mean tearing down what used to be City Hall/Public Safety on North Broad Street. People elsewhere in Laurens County might wonder, “Why does Clinton want a building(s) when it already has a building?” The sentiment would be especially acute if the County Council this year does not make a move to get the Sheriff’s Office out of its current situation in downtown Laurens. Right now, its evidence maintenance does not comply with state regulations, and with what they have now, it never will. It’s time for The Old Jail to become something else.
Yes, we are tied together in Laurens County; but if we are thinking Clinton First, what should we demand of our County Government? It’s question that will dominate 2020.